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Ethan Winer on... Condenser Microphones
Old 4th September 2008
  #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Kantola View Post
I feel that music people (recording engineers & audiophiles) and "scientists" (electronic & design engineers) seem to be stumbling in the dark on their own islands when it comes to many of these "controversial" issues. As I've probably said before, I truly believe the two camps can agree in the end. After all, we live in the same universe with the same laws.
There are many people, beside me, in both camps. George Massenburg comes to mind, and I know there are many others who are masters at mixing and also understand circuit design at the deepest level.

--Ethan
Old 5th September 2008
  #32
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We can do all the fancy measurements we want. Bottom line is our ears are the best tools we can use, and nothing will compare to it. Numbers cant tell us what our ears will hear, numbers can be incorrect or faked, and im sure they often are.
Old 5th September 2008
  #33
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Ethan's a great guy, a great mind, and an extremely valuable resource here.
You're splitting hairs...
Old 5th September 2008
  #34
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Thanks for the comments Ethan, will return to the topic tomorrow probably, but here's a couple of thoughts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
I'm sure you've heard a track that you think sounds great one day, then when you play it a week later for a friend to show off your monitor system it doesn't sound nearly as good. So which time were you right and which time were you wrong?
Yes, this can be tricky. But not hopeless. Have some equipment that sounds great every day, which makes me pretty sure it IS a good sounding device.

It's not automatic or easy to use your ears, you need to work hard to improve your listening skills and put them to use. Sometimes a bit of calibration is essential, such as listening to a familiar acoustic instrument in a space you know well. A bit like that sip of water during the wine tasting. The conditions affect your ability and judgment a lot, no good trying to analyze a picture through dirty glasses. Once listened on an Ipod to some microphone samples I had prepared. They all sounded identical to me. It's no wonder mastering engineers have good gear. As I'm sure you know, air temperature and humidity affect how sound behaves so this varies from day to day. And so on...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
As I said before, you cannot have clean and colored at the same time. Pick one and stick with it.
See your point. Problem is that 100% colorless or clean often seems impossible to produce when it comes to audio equipment. So we are forced to pick a color anyway. Chose your poison. There is no recording or playback setup that doesn't have a sound of it's own. Most of us have no problem telling if it's live or Memorex.

Martin
Old 5th September 2008
  #35
OK... that does it!


Clearly
... I'm gonna need a new avatar if I want to compete.

I'm thinkin'...

Old 5th September 2008
  #36
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Today, 10:34 AM #1 Martin Kantola
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Posts: 302


Ethan Winer on...
Ethan has contributed a lot to this forum, however I would like a friendly debate on some points. Sorry if these random points are taken out of context.

2-INCH TAPE:

"In much the same way an MCI beats a cassette recorder, modern affordable digital beats any 2-inch tape machine."

IDENTICAL SOUNDING DEVICES:

"If the response of an audio device is within 0.1 dB from 20 Hz to 20 KHz, and the sum of all noise and distortion is 90 dB below the signal, that device can be said to be audibly transparent. Any two devices with specs that good or better will indeed sound identical."

THE SOUND OF MICROPHONES:

"If you compare one microphone that's flat, with another microphone that has a presence peak or whatever that falls at a pleasing frequency, there's no reason simple EQ cannot make the flat microphone have that same pleasing response. Of course, some microphones have no output at all at very high frequencies, so no amount of EQ can bring that content back. But other than that, I see no reason a flat microphone can't be EQ'd to sound like another microphone that has a response you like."

TEST GEAR:

"Audio fidelity can be assessed using test gear, and nothing else is needed."

GEAR REPORTS AND PREJUDICES:

"I do not post just to make trouble or be contrary, even though many here seem to think that's my motive. My only goal is to get people to examine their own prejudices, and also to understand why anecdotal reports are inadequate for assessing gear quality."

Quoted from thread: D/A A/D Converter. Essential?

Martin
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wishful thinking martin but non of this is true...2inch tape has a diffrent charcter to it than good digital..too some its better tna digital to some digital is better because of its options over limited analog.... mics no matter what there curve may be flat or not cannot be eq'd to sound exactly the same... the components inside my as well vary on what they used for parts so specs cant account for that.. also the poloar patterns on mics arent all the same and cannot be made to sound similar...because there are so many eq;s and eq types this could never be posible.. active passive linear phase type eq's all have diffrent properties to them like say a compressor thats VCA operated or maybe optical or vari-mu or FET based not comparable....specs from a standpoint are only a good scientific observation and cannot be used to determine wheater or not the are perfect for a certain situation were color or transparency is concerned . also even though 2 devices might have the same specs the topolgy will defintly play a factor on how the device operates even within the same class ay you have 2 tube comps or anything like that transistor to transitor preamp will not be identifcal there is to account many types of tubes by diffrent brands and part for devices also wear and tear is a factor to sound...transistorized gear is also more suseptible to degradation over a period of time
Old 5th September 2008
  #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Protools Guy View Post
Ethan's a great guy, a great mind, and an extremely valuable resource here.
You're splitting hairs...
hes a big boy let him defend himself conan
Old 5th September 2008
  #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dopamine View Post
Hey Martin... GO GET A F'IN LIFE!

Ethan, thanks for all the help you've been over the years.
Old 5th September 2008
  #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Kantola View Post
Should have said "not very good at all", keep forgetting that c**p is a four letter word in English... Of course, the differences might not be huge, but quite enough for critical recording work.

Let me try to illustrate with an example. Was doing a session and plugged in my U-47 for vocals to my Millennia pre-amp. While the Millennia has served me well for many other applications, it clearly did not work well with the U-47 for vocals. We read about this microphone-preamp combinations here on GS all the time, but I was honestly speaking shocked what a bad match that one turned out to be. Swapped to a Portico 5012 and was happy again. Aware that the Portico has more distortion, but is it really enough to explain the difference? Both are good pre-amps, at least according to manufacturer's specs.
I'm just shooting from the hip since I'm too lazy to research those particular units, but I have designed plenty of mic preamps over the years and there are lots of off-sheet differences that don't show up on spec sheets.

One that I know some pre designers may play with to sound different (on purpose) is input termination. There is a defacto standard bridging impedance termination of 10x the nominal 150-200 Ohm mic source impedance. If a preamp deviates significantly from that defacto, but not actual standard, there will be audible response differences.

Another bit of gamesmanship is the capacitor setting the LF pole in the gain pot. Under-sizing that cap can make the preamp appear quieter than it is as it rolls off gain at LF where 1/F noise usually dominates, those and other subtleties can be audible but not measured, if you don't know where to look.

IMO If you can (reliably) hear a difference, you can measure that difference.

Quote:
Agreed, another good thing is to keep repeating the listening experience. Kind of averaging if you like.

So why is this such a big deal to me? Simple answer is I'm a GearSlut, longer one has something to do with the fact that I feel that music people (recording engineers & audiophiles) and "scientists" (electronic & design engineers) seem to be stumbling in the dark on their own islands when it comes to many of these "controversial" issues. As I've probably said before, I truly believe the two camps can agree in the end. After all, we live in the same universe with the same laws.

Martin
Yes, averaging or sampling is a good concept... individual auditions will vary with the inaccuracy of human audition, but over enough samples you will get an averaged or weighted sense of the actual sound quality (or not) generated.

The debate between meter readers and golden ears has been going on as long as I can remember, because each side is dismissive of the other and doesn't bother to get to the bottom of what each other are saying. There is merit in concise measurement equipment to promote the advancement of equipment performance, that said single measurements can't be relied upon to tell the whole story about any piece of gear.

Life is more complex than that...

JR
Old 5th September 2008
  #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Kantola View Post
expected some reactions but not at all like this
Perhaps you should look up the word context before trying to play with the boys wearing long trousers

Apology would be the next word in, probably, a long list for you to peruse

Quite how you thought you could illicit a sensible debate with that opening is beyond me
Old 5th September 2008
  #41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ssaudio View Post

Quite how you thought you could illicit a sensible debate with that opening is beyond me

well sensitive people like yourself usually dont debate much anyways right?


i guess he should have pm'd him so no one could ever see the outcome of an interesting conversation
Old 5th September 2008
  #42
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I realise that post was made using all of your intellect

but even so...
Old 5th September 2008
  #43
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hahaha oh come on
Old 5th September 2008
  #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
The problem I see with this position is that it puts forth the belief that there's some as-yet-unknown possibly magic property called "musical." The term "musicality" is common among audiophiles, but it doesn't mean anything because it's by definition subjective. Every day in the subwoofer section of the AVS forum, someone posts that they're looking for a "musical" sub. But what does that mean?
Why must it mean anything, except the subjective impression of the listener? Your arguments are all based on a false premise - that the interpretation of sound can be distilled into four simple parameters. You fail to take into account two other major factors - the source and the listener. No doubt, scientific parameters can be devised for these two factors, but given the complexities of the performer and listener, I suspect it will be more than four.

It's just fine to not know something.
Old 5th September 2008
  #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RonCarlston View Post
hahaha oh come on
I do my best
Old 5th September 2008
  #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sdelsolray View Post
Why must it mean anything
Because the adjective means absolutely nothing by itself, but is used in a context that absolutely requires meaning.
Using such language is pointless and generally hides either a lack of thought, knowledge or both.
Old 5th September 2008
  #47
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I spent some time doing high-speed digital design a few years ago. It was eye-opening for me. We were trying to transmit very high-frequency signals from one printed circuit board to another in a system. In order to get the signal there correctly, we had to create simulations that modeled every conductor in the connection, including connectors, printed circuit board traces, cables, etc. In order to validate the simulation we had to use a fancy piece of equipment called a vector network analyzer that measured four electrical parameters for every important point-to-point connection involved.

I'm telling this story because, if you buy a connector or cable, you will get a set of specs like capacitance per linear foot, nominal impedance, resistance. You might be tempted to think that this tells the whole story about the cable. Indeed, most people don't even know these specs of their cables. But the reality is that a cable is a very complicated piece of equipment on its own! Lots of very small reflections and distortions are created as a signal propagates along it. Most of these are insignificant at audio frequency, but they are there.

In the same way, it seems to me naive to think that a combination of frequency response and total harmonic distortion is a complete characterization of an audio circuit. It is more like a cartoon or caricature than a complete picture. Frequency response in particular relies on the linearity of what is being measured. If you have sine waves at frequencies A and B, you see from the frequency response curve the values of D(A) and D(B), the output of the circuit for those two sine waves. The implication is that the system is linear:
D(A + B) = D(A) + D(B)

In other words, the implication is that you can know how a complex signal (for example A + B, the sum of two sine waves) will propagate, if you know how A and B will propagate. But active circuitry is never linear. The nonlinearity is very difficult to characterize! You could say that the kind of model that the Liquid Mix or Liquid Channel has inside it is an attempt to capture these nonlinearities. And think of how voluminous those models are!

The upshot is this: no complex piece of audio gear can be characterized completely by a few graphs or summary numbers.

-synthoid
Old 5th September 2008
  #48
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Well said!

Mics so obviously can't be EQ'd to sound the same or even that close, I think that has to be a given, I'm sure that the original statement was taken out of context but it still reads as a statement and as such IS wrong.

There is no such thing as a 'flat' mic anyway and as many people seem hung up on splitting hairs about language than these absolutes should be thrown out straight away as well.
Old 5th September 2008
  #49
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Ethan and I are good friends so I am in no way trying to DIG but

Quote:
BTW, I've related this story before, but not for a while. A few years ago my partner bought a TLM 103 because he felt he needed a real Neumann to impress his clients. I suggested my audiotechnica 4033 as a great microphone that costs a lot less. But he was sold on the TLM's "presence peak" too, so he bought it. The next time I visited him we put both microphones adjacent and I sang (badly) into both microphones at the same time while he recorded both in SONAR. Sure enough, the TLM was brighter. So we looked at the TLM spec sheet and applied parametric EQ that exactly matched the presence boost on the 4033's track. Both tracks then sounded identical.
Do you have the files you can post of this track? I question the term "identical". Maybe "kind of close" or "both now sounded musical"hehheh (sorry had to throw that in).

Glenn
Old 5th September 2008
  #50
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Lightbulb

Quote:
Originally Posted by sdelsolray View Post
Why must it mean anything, except the subjective impression of the listener?
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssaudio View Post
Because the adjective means absolutely nothing by itself, but is used in a context that absolutely requires meaning.
This is the perfect answer. As I wrote above, warm and fuzzy terms mean nothing except to the person saying them. But the purpose of forums like Gearslutz is to spread information and knowledge. And that requires using words that mean the same thing to everyone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sdelsolray View Post
It's just fine to not know something.
Maybe fine for you, but not fine for me, or for the thousands of audio engineers who want to truly understand their craft! Taken to the extreme, that attitude is the same as suggesting people should drop out of school early, and vote for their president based on random throws of a dart. Or in the context of audio, turning knobs randomly hoping to get something good by chance. There's a word for that attitude: anti-intellectualism. heh

--Ethan
Old 5th September 2008
  #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Kuras View Post
Ethan and I are good friends so ...
Not anymore pal.

Kidding Glenn! heh

Quote:
Do you have the files you can post of this track? I question the term "identical". Maybe "kind of close" or "both now sounded musical"hehheh (sorry had to throw that in).
This was years ago and we did not save the tracks. Even if we did, no way would I let anyone hear my lame attempt at singing. But this is a great idea, and there's no reason we can't do it again using even more microphones and a real singer. I'll ask my friend Grekim if he'd like to help. He can sing, and he also has a nice mic collection. Then we can put up the results here for all to hear, along with the EQ curves applied etc.

--Ethan
Old 5th September 2008
  #52
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Lightbulb

Quote:
Originally Posted by synthoid View Post
the reality is that a cable is a very complicated piece of equipment on its own! Lots of very small reflections and distortions are created as a signal propagates along it. Most of these are insignificant at audio frequency, but they are there.
Yes, but the key is audio frequencies. VSWR in normal wire is irrelevant even at 20 KHz. At audio frequencies, all that matters is resistance, inductance, and capacitance. Likewise, for "linear" audio gear (ie: not compressors) at audio frequencies - the four parameters I stated are indeed all that matter. If you have any examples to the contrary, I'm glad to be educated.

--Ethan
Old 5th September 2008
  #53
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Quote:
This was years ago and we did not save the tracks. Even if we did, no way would I let anyone hear my lame attempt at singing. But this is a great idea, and there's no reason we can't do it again using even more microphones and a real singer. I'll ask my friend Grekim if he'd like to help. He can sings, and he also has a nice mic collection. Then we can put up the results here for all to hear, along with the EQ curves applied etc.
Yea you can do that but the person would need to put there head in a vice and sing EXACTLY the same way. Part of the reason I am not huge fan of blind testing. Maybe you could back it up with some more scientific testing along side of it. That way you satisfy the "by ear" folks and the "tape on the glasses" folks. heh

Quote:
I'll ask my friend Grekim if he'd like to help.
I am guessing her voice is a bit more musical?

Glenn
Old 5th September 2008
  #54
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Lightbulb

No, I'd have multiple microphones all set up to record at the same time, which is how Doug and I compared his TLM 103 to my 4033.

BTW, Grekim is a guy, seen in the photos partway down THIS page. Better edit your post quick because I'm about to email him a link to this thread. heh

--Ethan
Old 5th September 2008
  #55
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Great post JR, not only because I agree with you 100% but thanks for the fascinating comments on preamp differences! Clearly some designers have more knowledge about the details that makes a piece of gear sound sweet, and not only stay within basic tech specs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRoberts View Post
IMO If you can (reliably) hear a difference, you can measure that difference.
Absolutely. That is, theoretically you will be able to measure it. Because otherwise it's just not there, right?

But would you say the current state of measurement technology can give us the whole truth when it comes to audio? In other words, are ears necessary anymore in audio design and equipment evaluation? In the old days, measurements were very basic, and ears played a bigger role. For some reason, vintage equipment seems quite appreciated in general. But the same if true for vintage cars.

Martin
Old 5th September 2008
  #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris View Post
So what. This is some big outing or something?
Right? It reads like Martin's trying to call in a Slutz mortar attack on Ethan's opinions. This thread should be locked and the OP given a swift kick in the ass.
Old 5th September 2008
  #57
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
YLikewise, for "linear" audio gear (ie: not compressors) at audio frequencies - the four parameters I stated are indeed all that matter. If you have any examples to the contrary, I'm glad to be educated.

--Ethan
I don't know what you mean by 'linear' audio gear. I say there is no such animal in the analog realm.

It seems to me that you did not at all respond to what I wrote about frequency response. I said that frequency response curves depend upon the linearity of audio gear for their meaning. To the extent that a piece of gear is not linear (and I gave an equation for what I mean by linear), then the actual behavior (on real signals, not on sine wave sweeps) will not be predicted by the frequency response curve.

You responded by saying that for linear gear, all that matters is inductance, resistance, etc. But all that you have done is to give an alternate definition for 'linear'. I say linear means D(A+B)=D(A)+D(B): the behavior composes perfectly as we add frequencies together. You say that linear means that the circuit is built from linear components. And that's true. But real circuits are not built from linear components. They are built from strongly nonlinear components, like tubes and transistors.

-synthoid
Old 5th September 2008
  #58
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These mic tests wouldn't really tell us anything, what if I find a great sounding space and I want to capture that as well as the voice, there is so much going on EQ is like drawing in 2D on a 3D image.
Old 5th September 2008
  #59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by synthoid View Post
But active circuitry is never linear. The nonlinearity is very difficult to characterize! (...) The upshot is this: no complex piece of audio gear can be characterized completely by a few graphs or summary numbers.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with high frequency! That stuff surely must look like plain magic until you fully understand the complexity and the functions involved.

Question is, can we rule out that more complex stuff is meaningless do as long as we are talking about audio only? Have a hard time accepting that it would be possible to measure or study with absolute certainty what we can and cannot hear. Simply because of the way our brains work. There's no serial output connection you can tap into and download raw data.

Martin
Old 5th September 2008
  #60
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Lightbulb

Quote:
Originally Posted by synthoid View Post
I don't know what you mean by 'linear' audio gear.
I simply meant preamps, power amps, and equalizers. Versus compressors that change what they do with different input levels.

Quote:
I said that frequency response curves depend upon the linearity of audio gear for their meaning.
Agreed. But no competent EQ changes what it does at different signal levels, aside from obvious clipping.

Quote:
To the extent that a piece of gear is not linear (and I gave an equation for what I mean by linear), then the actual behavior (on real signals, not on sine wave sweeps) will not be predicted by the frequency response curve.
Agreed again, but nonlinearity does show up with distortion measurements.

Quote:
You responded by saying that for linear gear, all that matters is inductance, resistance, etc.
Sorry if I wasn't clear. I was talking about wire, and your quote that I replied to was also about wire. You said, correctly, that at GHz frequencies cable and connectors are complex. But implying that wires and connectors are complex at audio frequencies is incorrect IMO. At audio frequencies all that matters is resistance, inductance, and capacitance. Skin effect is also irrelevant at audio frequencies. Yes, you can measure these effects with sensitive test gear, but they are so infinitesimal that they make no audible difference.

Quote:
real circuits are not built from linear components. They are built from strongly nonlinear components, like tubes and transistors.
Yes, but they are made linear with negative feedback. It's easy to build a preamp having distortion well below 0.01 percent, which means that all artifacts are 80+ dB below the signal. Once the sum of all distortion is that soft, it's irrelevant.

--Ethan
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